Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Steve Irwin: In memoriam

The death of Steve Irwin (4 September 2006) came to me as a shock, but hardly a surprise. Anyone who is with nature is exposed to dangerous situations. I was a student in Australia almost a decade ago when Irwin became a global celebrity. He has a unique way of speaking the broad Strine accent. That accent I haven't heard from any true blue Aussie until Irwin came along on the telly.

I got a chance in 1999 to visit Australia Zoo in Beerwah, QLD and saw him go through his routines. Bindi was then a baby. But since then I have followed Irwin's career on Animal Planet and as time ambled along, got tired of his antics. So it was no wonder that his TV show had some major overhauling.

Obviously Irwin is considered as an Aussie Icon. And Aussie Icon who spoke that broad Strine accent with his mouth wide open. Perhaps he had to do some exagerration since he was catering to the American audience. Nonetheless, in a visit to the USA, some of my nephews were big fans of the show.

Irwin's death reinforces the idea that Australia is such a mean, mean place. Well evolution has given this island-continent its own suite of dangerous animals. Having lived in the Australian bush, it took me a while to get used to the strange ecology, being bedfellows with a carpet python and a funnel web spider. In Australia, animals that could deal death are never far away. Even in the centre of Sydney or Melbourne, it is possible to be in contact with these deadlies.

There was a country song sung in Tamworth, NSW listing all of Australia's dangerous animals, from taipans, redbacks to funnel webs, salties, box jellies, irukanjies to blue ringed octopus and lastly humans. It was a funny ditty but true. One fact of life in Australia is one needs to learn to live with these animals.

And in learning to live with these animals, you would eventually learn to love them. There is something about Australia that makes a person want to encounter these animals. And to think I only live there for a few years. Steve Irwin, true blue as he is, was born in Australia. No wonder he was attracted to these deadlies like a magnet. Gorgeous. Isn't she a beauty!

Death by stingray barb is extremely remote as death by the other deadlies in Australia is just as remote. But in going out that way, Irwin passed from death into legend. Someday a song in Tamworth will be sung describing his antics.

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